Every Thursday, the Catholic University football team goes through its offensive drills without freshman starting quarterback Tony Gallis. Gallis has a lab and says he would get more heat from Coach Joe Pascale for skipping the class than for skipping practice.
Gallis, ranked among the top 10 NCAA Division III quarterbacks for much of the season, did not go to Catholic University chiefly to play football. He went there to get a pre-med degree. Like most CU football players, none of whom receive athletic scholarships, he plays football as his class schedule allows.
Pascale dictates the academic priorities, and in his 10 years at Catholic, only four players have not received degrees. But Pascale was less than happy earlier this season when Gallis, then the third-ranked passer in the nation, and running back Chris Veno skipped a scrimmage scheduled on an open Saturday to go home for the weekend. Pascale suspended both for the next game, against St. Francis. Catholic won, 7-3.
Gallis' decision to go home, knowing the consequences, left some teammates with hard feelings.
"We had plans to go home for three weeks," said Gallis, who has completed 93 of 181 passes and thrown for 10 touchdowns. "Some of the players were upset, and that's understandable. They thought we were letting them down. But after the game was over, everyone came up and said, 'It will be good to have you back.' "
The ups and downs of the season have not changed Gallis' attitude toward pre-med. He still goes to Thursday lab instead of practice.
"I came here basically for academics," said Gallis, who drew interest from Columbia and Pennsylvania recruiters. "If my studies become too hard, I'll probably just give up football."
Pascale, however, doesn't want to deceive anyone. Football's still serious business at Brookland.
The Cardinals (5-3) are guaranteed their eighth winning season under Pascale as they prepare to close the season today hosting Bridgewater. Prior to his arrival, Catholic had had just two winning seasons in eight years.
Two years ago, the future of football appeared in jeopardy for the second time since Catholic went to the Orange Bowl in 1935. Pascale was stripped of his recruiting budget and the Cardinals nosedived to 1-8 last year.
The program has since been given new backing. Pascale recruited 32 freshmen, 12 of whom became starters. Gallis, a drop-back passer from Scranton (Pa.) Prep, has been the key man in the rapid rebuilding program.
In a 21-14 season opening victory over Emory and Henry, Gallis threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns, one an 80-yarder to John Hildreth. His two-yard touchdown pass to Mike Kosar on fourth and goal with 11 seconds left in the first half proved to be the winning points in a 19-18 victory over Georgetown.
Injuries have forced Pascale to call on his seventh- and eighth-string running backs the last three weeks. With no rushing attack, Gallis has been under heavy pressure. He has thrown four interceptions in each of the last two games after throwing just six the previous four.